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Trust Your Gut: Waylon Kostrzewski

Waylon Kostrzewski has always prioritized his health, exercising regularly to stay fit for his active family and his physically demanding work. When the 38-year old husband and father began experiencing occasional rectal bleeding, he wasn’t concerned. With no family history of colon cancer or any other risk factors for colorectal cancer, he had no reason to suspect a tumor, he said. “The bleeding only happened once every few months and I had no pain or any other symptoms.”

Thinking the bleeding might be caused by straining during workouts, he put off checking in with a doctor, even when the episodes continued for more than 18 months. By September 2019, Waylon was feeling tired and run-down, but chalked up his fatigue to parenting an active toddler and beginning a new job.

He was packing his bags to leave for a training course in Georgia when he began feeling lightheaded and dizzy. His wife Teresa noticed that he looked pale just before he passed out on his living room floor.

That night, Teresa insisted on taking Waylon to the hospital, where he learned that he was dangerously anemic. He was admitted to the hospital for further testing and remained there for four days. On September 19, 2019, a colonoscopy revealed the source of Waylon’s bleeding: a stage III rectal tumor.

Teresa works at Franciscan Surgical Associates at St. Joseph Medical Center and recommended that Waylon contact one of the providers there, Pierce County’s top-rated colorectal surgeon Shalini Kanneganti, MD. Working with a care team that included Dr. Kanneganti and medical oncologist L. Katherine Martin, MD, Waylon began a 6-week course of radiation and chemotherapy, then took an 8-week break from treatment before his tumor was surgically removed on January 24, 2020.

Though he wishes he would have caught his cancer sooner, Waylon is thrilled with the care he received from his Virginia Mason Franciscan Health care providers. “I had the best team ever. Each person did an outstanding job in their role, whether it was chemotherapy, radiology or my own personal care during this process,” he said.

He attributes his smooth recovery to the personal, caring guidance he received before and after his surgery. “Everyone at St. Joe’s set me up for success in terms of things I should be doing at home to prepare for surgery and recovery,” he said. “This has been a life-changing experience. You don’t get to experience that one-on-one care that I received very often.”

Getting screened for colon cancer and talking with a doctor about your symptoms could save your life, he said. “Be really careful with diagnosing yourself. Just listen to your body and your gut, and if your body is telling you something isn’t right, don’t be too proud to see a doctor.”

Learn About Colorectal Cancer Screening